Why the Potential Next President Represents a New Era for Cannabis
Sen. Bernie Sander’s presidency would be radically different from that of President Trump. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently announced his bid to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, is the only one among the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates with marijuana legalisation as one of his cardinal objectives. Having openly admitted to using the drug several years back, he has a strong history of drug reform initiatives, particularly those in favor of marijuana legalisation, dating back to his time as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He’s also only one of the few presidential candidates ever to receive an “A+” rating from NORML for their legislative track records, though he’s has emphatically stated that he isn’t trying “to encourage anybody to smoke marijuana.”
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to marijuana legalisation
Bernie Sanders has been at odds with President Trump over the President’s substance abuse initiatives, publicly criticising the Justice Department’s recent move to scrap guidelines on federal marijuana enforcement priorities. He also blasted Attorney General Jeff Session for putting plans in motion to rescindthe Cole memo. “No, Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin,” he charged the Attorney General in a statement. “No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule I drug beside killer drugs like heroin. Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalisation of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made in recent years,” he added.
Sanders reached out to congratulate the Canadian people for the successful legalisation of recreational marijuana in the country. He also congratulated a Seattle judge for rescinding incarceration orders for past cannabis-related misdemeanor convictions that were issued prior to legalisation. And he didn’t take long to present marijuana legalisation policies as vital part of his campaign promises.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ History of Drug Reform
During his years as a representative, Sen. Bernie Sanders spearheaded a number of legislative initiatives to push for fundamental changes to the federal cannabis laws, including the Marijuana Justice Act, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, and many others. He was the first senator to ever propose a bill to end federal cannabis prohibition, and the first major presidential candidate to support marijuana legalisation. Over two decades ago, he cosponsored a House bill to legalise medical marijuana. Throughout the 107th, 108th and 109th senate, Sanders supported and cosponsored bills to legalise and regulate industrial hemp. He also supported bills that exempt banks from federal prosecution if they open their doors to marijuana businesses in legal states. Sanders has also supported at least four bills to prevent the federal government from interfering in legal medical marijuana states.
His Most Recent Stances on Marijuana Legalisation
1. Marijuana is far less harmful than the other drugs strung together with it in Schedule 1, and it should be de-scheduled accordingly. During a rally at George Mason University -- one of the many in which he made promises about marijuana legalisation on his 2015 campaign trail, Sanders said “Right now, marijuana is listed by the federal government as a Schedule I drug—meaning that it is considered to be as dangerous as heroin. That is absurd”. He continued “In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana.” In a campaign at the University of Iowa, he expressed his dismay at how “marijuana is listed side-by-side with heroin”. “I know that you are an intelligent group of people and, very seriously, I know and I hope very much that you all understand what a killer drug heroin is,” he added.
2. The need to address the glaring disparity in the proportion of racial groups arrested for marijuana-related offenses, as blacks are more likely to be incarcerated than whites, despite rates of usage being roughly the same among all racial groups.
Bernie Sanders is poised to heal the rift in race relations opened by the disparities in proportion of blacks arrested for marijuana-related issues vs the proportion of whites
“We must recognize that blacks are four times more likely than whites to get arrested for marijuana possession, even though the same proportion of blacks and whites use marijuana,” Sanders commented in a press release, adding that criminal justice system needs reforms that remove prohibitions from marijuana.
3. Young people should not receive punishments for non-violent marijuana-related offenses that are heavier than punishments meted out to Wall Street bankers for financial crimes. “If some kid in Iowa or Vermont today is picked up possessing marijuana, that kid will get a police record that will stay with him for the rest of his life, but the executives on Wall Street who drove this country into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, whose greed and illegal behavior resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs, their homes, their life savings, these executives who pay billions of dollars in settlement agreements with the government, not one of them has been prosecuted. Not one of them has a criminal record.” Sanders said while speaking at a rally in Iowa in 2016.
Will Marijuana Legalisation be set in Stone in a Sanders Presidency?
Many of Sander’s most iconic career moments have revolved around marijuana issues. A push to end the drug war was a key point in his 2020 bid announcement speech. And to further cement the prospects of legalisation in a Sanders presidency, there’s also the fact that support for legalisation is shoring up on the foreign scene. The United Nations is on course to deschedule cannabis, and New Zealand will hold a referendum on the legalisation of recreational marijuana in 2020.
So far, polls show that more than two thirds of electorates in New Zealand are in support of legalisation. Many areas of the world are moving toward legalisation, and a president of the United States who is in favour of legalisation will be another huge victory for supporters of the movement.